The culture in the place was so different from what I am used to, I will share the following observations as a list, in no particular order.
1. Food was amazing, all made by hand in their kitchen which was essentially a room with a fireplace. Especially good was the chapati bread made on this fire from their own grown wheat and corn.
2. Cows. They are everywhere, no kidding. I was fascinated by them. Roop’s mom (my hosts) woke up every morning at 4am or so to milk the cow.
3. Sleeping in clothes. The house was very modest and they gave me the nicest room which normally belongs to the mother and father, I protested, but I was an honored guest and so they all decamped to the main room to sleep (Roop, mother, father, niece. At any given time 7 or more people might be living in this 4 room house). It was bitter cold, this being winter and there being no heat, so we all slept in our clothes.
4. Bathroom/Showers were outside the main house and no toilet paper as is custom in most of India. (hint: you use water and your left hand, and don’t worry to much about drying off, everything is dirty anyway)
5. Cooking with shit and corncobs. No kidding. This is the fuel they use inthe kitchen and you have to admit it is way environmentally friendly, as very little goes to waste.
6. Burping, farting and crotch grabbing. This was rampant everywhere and I have to admit to being a little shocked at how blase everyone was. This must be the Victorian prude in me.
7. Time moves differently here. There is lots of standing around and since everything seems to be a greater effort (like making a fire), people seem to be more in the moment and focused on what they are doing instead of what they need to be doing next, which is kind of cool.
8. Household hierarchy. This one is a little tough for me to swallow as a westerner. Women don’t eat with the men. Women are vegetarians, meat is for men. Women do all the housework. The daughter in law was the most like slave labor in the house, expected to do almost all the cooking an chores.
9. Showing respect. There is a pretty complicated set of rules, it seems, governing how people greet each other and show respect and treat guests. As a guest (and a very unique one at that being only the third westerner to ever set foot in this town) I was treated derefentially by everyone and with great pride by my host family. People would come from all over to see me and greet me and stare. When people would greet their elders, they would touch the elders feet to show respect. Men never touch women when greeting (unless a relative I think). There are certainly other rules, but these were the ones I noticed.
There really are too many other things to note, so by way of a quick list: The unfortunately named but delicious dessert “barfi”, being offered a bit of hashish on the day of the wedding, seeing the same movie 5 times during the weekend (a Punjabi movie, natch), hearing the same cd played over and over again, having the gurudwara blast the sounds of prayer starting at 5 am, giving the bride a $25 wedding gift and having her freak out in a nice way that it was WAY too much and that I should take it back.